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Hay purchases require careful consideration of numerous factors to ensure quality, value

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Neal Sorenson of Powder River Angus in Spotted Horse purchases hay most years.  

“We try to buy good quality hay that doesn’t have any weeds, since we don’t want to bring in weeds to our ranch,” says Sorenson. 

“I am interested in grass hay, which is harder to find.  Most irrigated farms are selling alfalfa, especially if they have pivots,” Sorenson explains. “The irrigated ground produces a lot of alfalfa.” 

“We prefer grass for our beef cattle because it gives a better fill, and they do better on it,” he says.

Alfalfa hay is usually higher priced, unless the producer put it up too dry or wet or it got rained on during harvest. 

Price of hay fluctuates depending on weather, hay supplies and region. 

Distance is another big factor.

Trucking cost

“The truckers who bring our hay like to haul big square bales better than round bales because they are not over-width.  Trucking is a big part of it and may cost as much or almost as much as the hay itself.  They usually charge by the mile, and it’s usually something over five dollars per mile,” Sorenson says.

This may vary with the year and time of year, for diesel costs. It also depends on the weather and how far they have to go. 

“They don’t like to go over a mountain or during bad weather in winter.  Trucks could get stuck in snow or have to chain up to get through bad roads,” he says.

Sorenson continues, “We are set up to feed round bales, but we can also feed square bales if that’s what we end up buying.”

Sourcing hay

Sorenson adds, “My wife Amanda is from Wheatland, which in the southeast part of Wyoming, and she has a friend there who raises hay on irrigated pivots.  That’s usually where we buy our hay.”  

It always helps to know the source of hay, he emphasizes.

“We like to know the quality and usually have the hay tested. Then, we know the relative feed value, protein levels, etc.,” he explains. “I don’t need dairy-quality hay for our beef cattle, but it’s nice to know the feed values.”  

“Usually the seller has the test done, because most people expect it,” Sorenson says.

The test also checks nitrate levels.  

If a person puts up a grain crop for hay, such as millet, on a dry year, the forage might accumulate nitrates, resulting in the possibility of nitrate poisoning in livestock.

“It’s a simple, inexpensive test,” he says.

Sourcing options

For producers who don’t have a convenient source for hay, websites and hay auctions provide a good place to check current prices and find contact information for people selling hay.  

  “The Wyoming Business Council has a website that lists hay for sale, for instance.  This hooks people up with sources for hay,” he says.

“The best situation is to find hay as close as possible, so it doesn’t have to be hauled very far,” Sorenson explains. “If possible, we go and look at it ourselves, then figure out the cost for freight.  There is an irrigated valley close to us, and it would be handy to buy hay from there, but I know it’s full of leafy spurge. We don’t buy any hay out of that valley, even though it’s much closer than other hay for sale.”

Heather Smith Thomas is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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